Thursday, December 10, 2009

HOLY WAR (yes I'm calling it that) Recap

This game is being played at the more "neutral" Palestra rather than the Hagen Arena. Villanova, which sank 16 threes against Maryland on Sunday, has already handled two other members of the Big Five - Drexel and LaSalle - rather easily, and we can see them running St. Joseph's off the court if Martelli doesn't slow this thing down successfully. Let's lay the points with Villanova.


#3 Villanova (-13.5) over St. Joes: Villanova should cruise past St. Joes in this lopsided Big 5 matchup. Phil Martelli's bunch has lost four straight and their isn't much light at the end of the tunnel. Watch for Villanova's backcourt, mainly Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, to dominate from beyond the arc.


"I look and I probe and I try to pull a thread," Martelli said. "I'm just not certain other than to be brutally honest with my players and say, 'None of you would get in the game for Villanova.' Yet, all of their guys would get in the game and get a lot of minutes for me. There is a big gap here."

The truth is the truth. And that is the truth.

Phil Martelli

The hair on the back of my head still stands up when I walk into the Palestra, see the sea of crimson in the student section, and start to hear "Gimme an H". An almost weepy moment for this usually stoic Irish-Pole. Kind of cool that after all these years I still get that feeling.

When we made our run in the closing moments of the second half the crowd, the entire crowd, starting chanting "Let's go St. Joe's" in unison, and it the was the loudest I've heard the place since the Holy war two years ago when Calathes and Nivins beat them by 20, or maybe in the early 90's when Mark Bass hit a three to tie up UMASS at the start of the second half in an Atlantic 10 tournament game. IT WAS LOUD, and my voice is hoarse today.

Sad to see award winning Daily News columnist Dick Jerardi writing features about Villanova. Has he been seduced by the dark side of the force? (just kidding Dick) Worse though is our own coach who is a bit too effusive in his praise of our cross town rival. Be friends with Jay, raise lots of money to defeat cancer, but don't give any potential recruit reason to possible choose them over us. If it did come down to our two schools all the Cats would have to do is show him one of your press clippings. You can respect their program without over-doing it. Unless Jerardi is slipping you sodium-penathol during these interviews please save that stuff for the confessional. You draw a salary to make St.Joe's look good, not the other guys. As former coach John Griffin once said "maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses." This would be the second year in a row that you've done this... and I don't know why. It serves no purpose.

Chelsea & Shannon texting scores to friends at a time out.

I always enjoy hearing from the experts, especially when they say we're going to get crushed. Of course if they read Phil's quotes in the paper who could blame them. But we know better. Those of us who have bled crimson and gray for a long time know that anything goes in a Big 5 matchup, and that increases exponentially when played at the Palestra. The most defiant cheer in all of basketball is "THE HAWK WILL NEVER DIE", and the boys lived up to that last night. Some might say they were overmatched but they did not give up. In one sequence there were bodies all over the floor -- and Hawks, traditionally, for 100 years, have always hustled more than the other team. There is not much you can do about the other team's free throw percentage but you can work on switching men on a screen... which proved to be our demise. Game balls to Idris, Tay, GW, Gov, and Justin. If they play with that level of intensity here on out we have a shot at dancing. I only see us getting better and Baptiste hasn't played yet. (ahh.. the trip back from Rider erased from your memory banks 44?)

Unfortunately I can't share any of those great pics I used to as my alma mater will no longer allow me to post any pictures from my buddy Greg Carroccio at Sideline Photos. I suppose they feel that they already have too much publicity? But that doesn't mean you can't check out his site for hundreds of pictures from the Holy War, and every St. Joe's game. Greg will enlarge them to any size and they make great Christmas gifts for the Hawks in your life. Go get 'em ;-)

I made it to the New Deck and Slainte (30th and Market) last night, and got to see many great Hawks. One in particular I keep bumping into is former Hawk great Pat McFarland, now back home from Cleveland. Older Hawks would know that the former team captain scored more than 1,500 points in his career (remember -- only three years back then). In his senior year, 1972-73, he along with Mike Bantom lead the Hawks to a 22-6 record and both averaged 20.3 ppg! What Pat doesn't know is that he made me cry one night -- when his Hawk team lost in double OT to Nova 72-79. I had made a $1 bet with a Nova friend of my father's. When we lost, the tears came out as Dad instructed me to go get my piggy bank. (cut me a break I was only 8 years old;-) I've hated them ever since.

Pat is in the South Jersey High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the St. Joseph's University Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame... and now is a shooting instructor! When you have time check out his website PURE SHOOTING. He is helping, through clinics and one on one, many kids in the Delaware Valley become better shooters, and with his impressive resume and his pleasant demeanor I couldn't think of a guy better suited to do this, although it might be too late for 44 ;-0

44 with Pat, Tommy O'Rourke, Mike Matthews, Danny Caramanico
and John Gill pre-game.

A few other observations:

* Heard a rumor that some foolish Nova fans attempted to dine at the New Deck last night and were welcomed with the entire place singing the St. Joe's fight song, and quickly left. Silly boys... this is our bar in West Philly... please find your own, preferably out on the Main Line. Safer for you, safer for your BMW.

* I was able to meet some Hawks and have some refreshments at the New Deck Tavern and Sláinte, which underscored the need for an on campus watering hole. The vacant to be Irish pub across from the Hagan is needed as there is no pre-game meeting spot on Hawk Hill. We need to get this done.

* I was thinking of the popular ‘Theology On Tap’ as I met old friends and made new ones prior to the Holy War game on Wednesday. Even though everyone knows that is where Hawks meet prior to tipoff... there are no representatives from our alumni department. One might call that department on Hawk Hill in disarray as we lost our popular alumni director Frank DeVecchis last month, will lose our most recent head of development next month, and are oddly enough left with a non-alumnus as head of alumni -- an opportunity to press the flesh is being wasted. I figure if the USCCB is OK with the idea surely the Jesuits would be.

* Big 5 and Atlantic 10 rival LaSalle easily beat Rider, who easily beat us, but easily got beat by Nova, who we could have beat last night (44's got some beats there). So where do we stand this year?

* The name of our home court used to be called Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, and is now called Hagan Arena. Someone should let the announcers know. We also paid about 90 million for the Episcopal School -- so please call it by our new name -- the Maguire Campus. And for the record it is, officially, SAINT Joseph's University, but when abbreviating it's St. Joe's, not SAINT Joe's -- which was on the scoreboard.

* Please no more profanity in the student chants. There is no reason for it and that is not who we are. I don't care how many beverages you had pre-game -- since someone is paying all those thousands of dollars per course for you -- dare to be clever. You have it in you. Please don't become the least common denominator. Otherwise kudos to the students as they rocked the Cathedral on Wednesday.

Finally I received the following message on Facebook:


I graduated in 08 @SJU and left the country. (I was an international student). I was browsing the web looking stuff of SJU, how the university is doing and all. I had no idea that Hagan Arena was finished and got to see the pictures! (ran across your blog). I miss the place a lot, thank you!


I hope my new friend Andras was able to catch the game on ESPN2 as well. I was proud of my Hawks last night. Please take this effort on the road and beat Minnesota. You now know what you can do.




PS -- the best St. Joe's rollout of the night:


in reference to Nova graduate, former NBA ref and felon Tim Donaghy.

Villanova outlasts Saint Joseph's in Big 5 rivalry
SOMETIMES, you simply have to respect the rivalry, which in this case happens to be the fiercest the City Series has to offer.

So why should the 67th edition have been much different?

Just because unbeaten Villanova came in as the country's No. 3 team, having just taken out Maryland in the nation's capital? Or that the Wildcats (9-0) had won 20 of their previous 21 Big 5 games, a dominance that only the Penn program of the early 1970s could claim?

The 'Cats, after all, had already beaten Penn by 38 and La Salle by 18, both at home, which had some pondering if they could perhaps do better than the combined 83 points they had beaten the other four teams by in 2005-06 en route to the Final Eight.

Saint Joseph's, which had lost four straight after opening with three victories, was picked to finish closer to the bottom of the Atlantic 10 than the top. But a year ago, they went to the Pavilion and came within a missed front end of a 1-and-1 in the closing moments of pulling off the upset. Over a 'Nova team that would make it to the last weekend.

And who could forget what went down 2 years ago at the Palestra, when a 'Nova team that would make a late run to the Sweet 16 got smoked by 22.

They met up again in West Philadelphia last night. Two schools that don't really like to break bread together. This season, 'Nova has way better weapons. And many more of them.

The final was 97-89. But it was a five-point game with just under 3 minutes remaining, not too long after 'Nova had led by a dozen. St. Joe's Darrin Govens then missed a three from straightaway. Corey Fisher made two foul shots at the other end. But with 2 minutes showing, the Hawks' Carl Jones got fouled outside the arc by Scottie Reynolds and went to the line. He converted all three tries, and the ancient building was going only slightly bonkers, as it had every right to.

On the ensuing possession, Villanova's Taylor King nailed one from deep on the left wing to beat the shot clock. Just as he had done a minute earlier (and two other times in the second half). They would be two of only three baskets 'Nova got in the closing 7 minutes. But the 'Cats would make their last 29 freebies in a row after missing their second one of the second half.

The Hawk did indeed perish. It obviously didn't go quietly.

We should have figured what was coming when no team scored more than once in a row through the first 6 minutes. It was, as they say, good hoops. Villanova would go up nine, but St. Joe took a one-point lead before the 'Cats scored the final four points of the half to make it 41-38.

There was a bunch more to come. Long live the border skirmish.

Reynolds Unwrapped

Villanova's three wins since coming home from Puerto Rico were by 18, 19 and nine points over La Salle, Drexel and Maryland, respectively. The Maryland game was not that close.The Wildcats and the Hawks gave the packed house what it wanted, a night to remember.Villanova and Saint Joseph's put on a show. The teams traded the lead five times before the adrenaline finally wore off. Villanova hit six of its first nine shots from the field and Saint Joseph's was 5-for-8 before the first television timeout.

Villanova Fends Off Feisty St. Joe's
When St. Joe’s went down by as many as nine in the first half, it was looking like it could be another easy win for Villanova, the team that (until Wednesday night) had won in double-digits in all but three games in that 21-game span.

But the resilient Hawks went on a 15-5 run to take a 38-37 lead late in the first half. Their quick guards were getting into the lane with ease, and though Villanova big men like Antonio Pena and Maurice Sutton made the lane a tough place to finish in, senior guard Darrin Govens was already in double-figures when Villanova went into the half up by three.

“[The Palestra] is the best basketball building in America because the visiting team, quote-on-quote, has fans,” Martelli said. “Those other places that they want to talk about, because it’s one-sided, all the fans are for one team. But here there’s noise on every play, pro and con.”
Still, there were many more people cheering for the Hawks than the Wildcats.

“It’s kind of like a high school, little gym where everybody’s on top of you, but there’s, what 9,000 people against you. And that’s what we love as competitors,” said Villanova senior guard Scottie Reynolds.

King has played at Cameron Indoor at Duke, but he’s never seen something like the Cathedral of Basketball. “That was the first time I’ve been in a gym like that when all the fans were against us,” King said. “It was kind of crazy, but it was just another game.”

King delivers victory in Holy War for Villanova
Just like in any good rivalry, you can throw out the records and the rankings when Villanova and St. Joe’s square off against each other. Tonight’s version of the “Holy War” at the famed Palestra was no exception as the third-ranked Wildcats of Villanova were given a formidable challenge by the archrival Hawks of St. Joseph’s. Villanova emerged victorious in this high-scoring contest, 97-89.

St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli received inspired play from his upperclassmen. Junior forward Idris Hilliard led the Hawks in scoring with 22 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. Senior guards Darrin Govens and Garrett Williamson, who are no strangers to the intensity of this Big 5 rivalry, provided leadership and toughness for the Bala Ballers (And, yes, I did just make up that nickname for the Hawks of St. Joseph’s University on the fly). Govens chipped in 19 points and hit three timely 3-pointers to keep his Hawks perpetually within striking distance of the Wildcats. Williamson contributed by penetrating Nova’s trapping zone defense and scoring 13 points from the field and dishing out 7 assists. Freshman guard Carl Jones, a Northern Ohio native, provided Martelli some spark off the bench, using his speed and quickness to penetrate the Wildcats defense at various, odd angles. He finished with 16 points and three 3-point field goals made.

Dear Hawks,

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the last day to bid on seven
(7) great items at the SJU Hawks On-Line Auction!

Items include an autographed framed photo of Jameer Nelson
/Delonte West, three (3) game-worn #34 Ahmad Nivins jerseys,
and a "throwback" SJU basketball shooting shirt.

Make the holidays extra special for someone on your list!

Click here to see all the items:


St. Joseph's Hawks The Hawk 2010 Tee


  1. when did harry booth come back?

  2. Tom,

    Dan Grif mentioned your blog to me when I met you down in AC last spring, but I didn’t really even know what a blog was at that time – I’m not sure I know a whole lot more now, but I did just start mine on my site.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the “little” plug – it was hardly little! I loved your blog – now I understand more about them. Thank you again. If there is ever anything I can do for you, let me know. I’ll see you soon.